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THE CALIFORNIA l> 




May 1976- 



Uusive Interview: 





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Interview 



Werner Erhard 

"What is, is. And what ain't, ain't." 

by John Johns 



Sixteen years ago there was no Werner 
Erhard. Five years ago there was no est. 
Today Werner Erhard and est (Erhard 
Seminars Training) are truly an American 
phenomenon, a thriving success in the 
fertile garden of modern pop psychology. 

Werner Hans Erhard was born Jack 
Rosenberg 40 years ago in Philadelphia. 
He married his high school sweetheart 
and, in true story-book fashion, proceeded 
to raise a family of four children. But in 
1960 the story took an abrupt turn— Jack 
Rosenberg ran away with Ellen, who is 
now his second wife. With characteristic 
candor, Werner admits that he took off k *to 
avoid the responsibilities I had." (He has 
since become very close to his first family, 
while also raising three children in his 
second marriage.) 

It was in St. Louis that Jack Rosenberg 
became Werner Erhard, borrowing from 
Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winning 
physicist, and former West German Chan- 
cellor Ludwig Erhard. From St. Louis. 
Erhard made his way to California, where 
he worked for a correspondence school. 
Not long afterward he went to Spokane 
and a job managing a sales office for 
Britannica's Great Books series. 

In 1963 Werner took a job with the 
Parents Cultural Institute, a subsidiary of 
Parents Magazine, which published and 
sold encyclopedias. Within three years 
he had become vice-president, having 
excelled as a sales manager. He remained 
there for six years. 

Werner's next position was with the 
Grolier Society, Inc. Their business was 
also encyclopedias, and again Werner 
demonstrated remarkable organizational 
and motivational skills in sales. 

While he was sharpening his man- 
agement skills, however, Erhard also em- 
barked on a spiritual quest that took him 
through Zen, yoga, Scientology, Mind Dy- 




namics, Gestalt and numerous psychic lay- 
overs along the way. Then, driving the 
freeway one day, Werner Erhard "got it"- 
the experience that transformed his life 
and led him to the formation of est (also 
Latin for "it is"). His message: "What is, is. 
And what ain't, ain't." 

In the 4'/2 years that the San Francisco- 
based est has flourished, it has doubled in 
size each year. A paid staff of 230 and a 
rotating volunteer corps of 6000 to 7000 est 
graduates currently power est offices in 12 
cities. There are now more than 70,000 
mostly middle-class graduates (this is no 
fringe hippie movement) who pay $250 to 
"get it" from the demanding 60-hour, two- 
weekend course. Last year revenues were 
more than $9 million, and 12,000 people 
are on the waiting list, anxious to swell the 
ranks of enthusiastic est graduates. 

Werner himself disclaims any ambitions 
to become a millionaire. His salary is 
reported to be $48,000 a year and he lives 
in a $100,000 house in Marin, pilots a 
rented Cessna and drives a Mercedes that 
sports license plates reading SO WUT. 
Looking to the future, Werner Erhard 
nourishes the hope that 40 million Amer- 



icans will someday have taken the est 
training. 

Q: Werner, what brings people to est? 
Considering the relative affluence of est 
graduates, could it be a dissatisfaction with 
material success? 

A: I don't think it's a dissatisfaction with 
personal success or material success that 
brings people to est. In many respects, 
having achieved that allows you to take a 
look at what your life is really about. 
Material success isn't all that bad a thing; 
however, it's only what people thought 
they wanted. When they have it, they often 
realize it's not what they thought it would 
be, and doesn't in itself bring them satis- 
faction. I think it's the recognition that 
there's something beyond personal and 
material success that brings people to est. 

Q: Do you feel that part of the attraction is 
the American preoccupation with instant 
gratification? In this case, overnight en- 
lightenment? 

A: There are some elements of that. How- 
ever, there is a piece of information which 
strongly belies that notion, and that is, that 
among est graduates there is a large body 
of what are ordinarily called "seekers"— 
people who have spent their whole lives 
seeking for "it," usually doing that the 
hard way. But there's no such thing as 
long-term enlightenment. You can't take a 
long time to get enlightened. What takes a 
long time is trying to get enlightened, and 
as anybody who's studied enlightenment 
knows, one of the things that will keep you 
from getting enlightened is trying to get 
enlightened. The only thing there is is 
instant enlightenment. It happens out of 
time, so it is really instantaneous. 

Q: You say that people are dissatisfied 
because they think they have what they 
want but find that they're not really expe- 
riencing it. What are the barriers to their 
experiencing it? I 

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Interview: 

A: The simplified answer is that people 
seem to exist in three parts. We have the 
outer part, which is the thing we put 
together to survive in life— our persona, 
our ego. This best-foot-forward face. Un- 
derneath that we're trying to hide, particu- 
larly from ourselves, the person we're 
afraid we might be: small-thinking, fright- 
ened, concerned about our own survival, 
pretending, arrogant. So we put on the 
face, and underneath that is the thing 
we're afraid we might be. Some of us put 
on the face so successfully that we don't 
even know this person we're afraid we are. 
Underneath that is the self. So the barrier 
to the experience of who we actually are is 
the unwillingness to confront who we are 
afraid we are, or dramatizing who we are 
afraid we are. You see, some people are 
acting out their fear of who they might be. 
That is the simple answer. / 
Q: So people come to est hiding behind 
their persona, wearing their "face." Yet so 
many est graduates come away excited 
about a change or transformation. How 
could you characterize this? 
A: Let me try to back around to it. The 
transformation is the shift of the principle 
which orients the person's life, which is 



ordinarily the principle of gaining satisfac- 
tion. Essentially what organizes life for 
most of us is an attempt to gratify our 
needs: our psychological needs, our mate- 
rial needs, our personal needs. Some peo- 
ple bring that to a very high level, for 
instance, charitable and good citizens. But 
it's a behavior to fill a high-level need. If 
you look at Maslow's hierarchy, the ulti- 
mate need is the need for symmetry and 
beauty, and people who are behaving to 
fulfill a need for symmetry and beauty 
don't look very driven, because they're 
really not very driven. They're at the peak 
of this hierarchy of needs. That, however, 
is not a transformed individual. Indi- 
viduals transform when there's a shift in 
the principle which orients their life from 
one of gaining satisfaction to one of ex- 
pressing the satisfaction they've already 
got. What distinguishes a human being is 
becoming. What distinguishes an en- 
lightened human being is being. The dif- 
ference between an enlightened or 
transformed being and an unenlightened 
or not-yet-aware-of-themselves being is 
that one is becoming something and ex- 
pressing himself in the striving to become 
that and the other one is something, and is 



expressing that in moving through the 
world. 

Q: In other words, people come out of est 
not "trying"? 

A: Yes. Now, just let me mitigate that a 
little bit, because I spoke to you in abso- 
lutes to make a sharp contrast. I should 
have used words like "ordinarily you and I 
are expressing becoming." What happens 
in the training is that the predominant way 
you are is "being" rather than "becom- 
ing." All of us have experiences of being. 
I'm sure that you can recall experiences of 
being, and you know that the quality of 
life has somehow shifted. Whether they're 
frequent or infrequent, everyone's had 
those experiences of being, and they can 
get in touch with that and know what we're 
talking about. 

Q: Let's look at the training, then. Can you 
illuminate somewhat how this transforma- 
tion is accomplished? 
A: Sure. The first day, or at least the first 
half of the first day of the training, is spent 
explaining the training in detail, so people 
know exactly what's going to happen. 
They find out what they're likely to bump 
up against. This is so they can take respon- 
sibility for being in the training. The train- 



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iijg cannot occur when it's being "done" to 
somebody. We also, on the first day, pre- 
sent facts that are inconsistent with the 
way people believe the world to be-and I 
emphasize the word believe. The second 
day, you have a very direct experience of 
this thing we spoke about before: you 
really haven't been experiencing life, you 
have been conceptualizing it. The shift 
here is from having your life as a story of 
what's happening to having your life as the 
experience of what's happening. The sec- 
ond half of the second day is what we call 
the danger process, and in that process you 
actually get to experience— not think 
about, not figure out, not have somebody 
tell you— but experience what is really 
making you hold onto your act, or face. 

The third day is spent in discovering 
what is actually real for you, as contrasted 
with what you always thought was real and 
what appears to be real, and you discover 
the actual nature of reality. You also dis- 
cover those false notions you're holding in 
your ground of being, those things which 
are so so for you that you never think 
them. They're what you think with, and 
what you see with. You discover you can 
create your own experience. 



The last day you have a direct experi- 
ence of your own mind, which is akin to 
seeing the back of your eyeballs with your 
eyeballs. You turn yourself inside out, and 
you come face to face with your own 
mind— and it happens to be who you al- 
ways thought you were. But if you are 
looking at who you always thought you 
were, you've got to be the person looking. 
That's where most people "get it," al- 
though some people get it in the first hour 
and some people get it three days later. 
Then you look at the true nature of prob- 
lems. You look at the way relationships are 
actually set up and why they become so 
muddied and confused, and why they're 
often unsatisfying. 

Q: Is the training complete when a person 
graduates? 

A: Yes. It's a complete beginning. In other 

words . . . 

Q: Not an end? 

a: Precisely! The training ends nothing. 
What it really does is start something— and 
it starts it completely. 
Q: Why do you suggest that someone 
who's not "winning" in psychotherapy not 
enroll in est? 

A: Because, obviously, they've got a prob- 



lem that ought to be handled by psycho- 
therapists. That's an important thing. We 
handle that very specifically by telling 
people who need psychotherapy or medi- 
cal attention that est is not the place to go, 
that est is not psychotherapy. If you need 
therapy, you should go to a therapist. If 
you need doctoring, go to an M.D. 
Q: You personally have reached an un- 
usual place, especially as the source of a 
dynamic organization like est. Where is 
your ego in all this? 

A: I think the best thing to tell you is after I 
had this experience, I worked for many 
months before I actually started est. I 
worked hard, really hard, to try to get my 
ego out of the way. I knew that I couldn't 
create the space for other people to partici- 
pate as long as my ego was in the way. It 
was after I solved that problem that I 
started est. The way I solved the problem 
was by realizing. "How dare you not have 
an ego! How dare you! That's the ultimate 
ego!" The ultimate position of ego is to try 
not to have an ego. So, where my ego is, is 
right here, and I handle it by taking re- 
sponsibility for it rather than by being the 
effect of it. Instead of being my ego, I have 
an ego. • 



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